The Wall (2012)

aka Die Wand

2014 #90
Julian Roman Pölsler | 103 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | Austria & Germany / German | 12

The WallAn unnamed woman (Martina Gedeck) goes to stay with some friends at their lodge in the Alps. The friends pop into town, leaving their dog behind with the woman. When she wakes up the next morning, they’ve not returned, and she finds an invisible wall surrounding the mountain. Exploring its boundaries, she sees people outside, paused mid-life, as if frozen. As hours turn into days turn into weeks, she begins to realise the need to fend for herself, farming the land and caring for her animals, which come to also include a cow and a cat. As weeks turn into years, she comes to accept her new life, from which it seems there may be no end…

…which is partly because the film has a frustrating lack of conclusions. I’m sure it was never meant to be about the mysteries, because it’s an Arty Foreign Film, not a Hollywood genre movie, but it feels like it cuts out just 10 or 20 minutes before reaching a proper ending. And whether it likes it or not, the mysteries remain. Maybe that‘s the point? If so, I’m not sure it’s a good one.

It’s adapted from an enduringly popular Austrian novel (which long predates works with a similar concept like Under the Dome and The Simpsons Movie — clearly, the ideas has legs), one of those many books labelled “unfilmable”. Unfortunately the solution seems to have been an over-reliance on voiceover narration, meaning at times it feels more like a prettily-illustrated audiobook than a proper film. I suppose when your main character is the sole human, there aren’t many alternatives — you have to be even artier and make it silent, or have them implausibly talk to themselves; though at least here she could talk to the dog. Meanwhile, something like All is Lost proves it’s possible to make an exciting, gripping film with a single character and no dialogue. At least there’s some beautiful photography to enjoy (the work of six cinematographers!), and the dog’s brilliant too.

All in all you're just another brick in...The Wall starts out with a compelling mysterious premise, but seems to have no interest in exploring it or answering the many questions it raises. In some respects that’s better than the kinds of rote explanation offered by lesser films — you know, “Aliens did it. Why? Because.” — but it’s a bit like a joke without a punchline. Taking the setup as a mere excuse for an exploration of the human condition, I don’t know that it’s that illuminating. Either way, it makes for a sporadically interesting but ultimately unsatisfying experience.

3 out of 5

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

2008 #1
David Silverman | 83 mins | DVD | PG / PG-13

The Simpsons MovieAnd so 2008 begins with one of last summer’s biggest hits: the long-awaited big screen debut of America’s most well-known family. I’m not a big Simpsons fan, unlike many film critics it would seem — I like the show, undoubtedly, but I’ve never watched it regularly and haven’t sat through a whole episode for years (not even the recent-ish Ricky Gervais or Kiefer Sutherland ones).

This might explain why the movie didn’t feel tired to me, as some have described it. It might not be laugh-a-minute, and there are some sections where the plot has taken precedence (not always with good reason), but the gag count is nonetheless high and some are genuinely excellent. The plot is suitably epic, mostly justifying the need to be on a big screen at feature length. Some of the subplots feel like episodes of the show, but that’s fairly inevitable when converting a format such as this. Everything looks bigger; the quality of the animation is high; and while I’m sure the events will have no lasting impact on the characters, it does feel like a simple TV episode or two wouldn’t do it justice.

It may be that The Simpsons Movie wasn’t the ground-breaking best-comedy-ever that it needed to be to impress some. But it made me laugh, and often; at least as much as any other recent comedy, if not more so. That makes it a success in my book.

4 out of 5